Madam Speaker, during question period on January 27, I asked the minister what action she was planning to take to ensure compliance with the Canada Health Act.
Quebec has legalized ancillary fees for public health services even though this practice violates the Canada Health Act. It is unacceptable that people's finances should determine their access to health care.
In November, my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie wrote to the minister to inform her about this situation, and I have risen twice in the House to ask the minister what the federal government is going to do to put a stop to this practice.
The minister did reply to the letter, but she did not say a word about ancillary health fees even though her mandate letter clearly states that her “...overarching goal will be to strengthen our publicly-funded universal health care system”. To me, strengthening a universal health care system does not mean forcing patients to pay $500 for the use of instruments involved in performing a colonoscopy. Allowing ancillary fees results in unequal access to medical services, and the federal government should intervene to stop this.
If we take a look at some of the ancillary fees that are being charged, we can see some alarming figures: $40 for the application of a four-square-centimetre bandage following a minor surgery, $200 for the insertion of an IUD, $500 for the use of instruments. One need only take a quick glance at the Canada Health Act to know that such practices are against the law.
The law specifically states that provincial and territorial health insurance plans must provide coverage for all medical and hospital services that are medically necessary. Charging ancillary fees for health care services clearly violates the principle of fair and universal health care coverage. In this specific case, the Canada Health Act is not being enforced.
What is more, this system has encouraged health processionals to adopt practices that go against the principles of equity and universality. For example, some doctors' offices charge $300 for $20 eye drops, or $150 just to create a file.
In some cases, the legalization of ancillary fees has led some doctors to violate their code of ethics. This measure violates the principle of equity and is misleading for Quebeckers. We need to stand up for the principle of a free, accessible, and universal health care system.
Allow me to recap. Quebeckers are becoming poorer as a result of the legalization of ancillary fees. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Canada ranks second in pharmaceutical expenditures per capita. This affects everyone.
This measure affects the quality of life and the health of citizens. In this case, there is a huge gap between the rich and the poor. No one should have to choose between getting treatment and paying rent.
In addition, there is a risk that other provinces could adopt this plan, which would lead to interprovincial medical tourism.
This measure is helping create a two-tier health care system. I ask my colleague once again: what will the minister do to ensure that the public health care system is accessible from coast to coast to coast?